What is intraventricular hemorrhage?

Intraventricular hemorrhage in children: Overview

Intraventricular hemorrhage is bleeding in the brain.

If the amount of bleeding is small, there should be little or no injury to the brain. But if there is more bleeding, too much fluid can build up in the brain. This is called hydrocephalus. The extra fluid increases the pressure in the baby's brain. This may injure the brain and lead to mental and physical problems.

There isn't a treatment to stop this type of bleeding. But your doctor will watch your baby closely for signs of extra fluid in the brain. Your doctor will also keep your baby's blood pressure steady and help your baby breathe.

If fluid buildup occurs, your baby may get a lumbar puncture or another procedure to drain the fluid and reduce pressure. During a lumbar puncture, a doctor removes some spinal fluid. If your baby gets a shunt, a doctor places a flexible tube in the brain. This tube helps to drain the fluid.

Intraventricular hemorrhage in premature infants

During the first week after birth, some premature infants develop bleeding in the brain (intraventricular hemorrhage), for which there is no known treatment. Brain damage can result.

The more immature the brain is, the more fragile the brain's blood vessels are and the more sensitive they are to changes in blood pressure. So extremely premature infants are at the greatest risk for this problem.

Medicines given to the mom or baby may help reduce the risk of bleeding.

How is intraventricular hemorrhage in premature infants treated?

  • There is no treatment to stop this type of bleeding in the brain.
  • Instead, the focus of treatment will be to keep the blood pressure steady, give fluids, and help your baby breathe.
  • If hydrocephalus develops, your baby may have a lumbar puncture or have a procedure to drain the fluid. A flexible tube called a shunt may be placed in the brain to drain the fluid. Draining fluid helps control the pressure in the brain.
  • Your baby may have more tests to check for swelling and fluid buildup.

How can you care for your child's intraventricular hemorrhage?

  • If your doctor prescribed medicines for your baby, give them as directed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • If your baby gets home oxygen, follow instructions for how to use it.
  • Wash your hands before you hold your baby.
  • Do not smoke or expose your baby to smoke. Smoking increases the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, asthma, colds, and pneumonia. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

What is intraventricular hemorrhage in premature infants?

Some premature babies have bleeding in the brain the first week after birth. This bleeding is called intraventricular hemorrhage.

Your doctor may describe the amount of bleeding as grades 1 through 4. Grade 1 or 2 means the amount of bleeding in the brain is small. Less bleeding means there is a much lower chance of brain damage.

More bleeding (grades 3 and 4) raises the risk that fluid will build up in the brain. This is called hydrocephalus. The extra fluid can increase pressure in the baby's brain. This may cause brain damage. It can also cause mental and physical problems.

Intraventricular hemorrhage in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child stops breathing, turns blue, or becomes unconscious. Start rescue breathing or follow instructions given by emergency services while you wait for help.
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Signs may include the chest sinking in, using belly muscles to breathe, or nostrils flaring while your child is struggling to breathe.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of fluid buildup in the brain. For example:
    • Your child's head gets bigger very quickly.
    • The soft spot on your child's head feels firm or bulges out.
    • Your child is irritable or sleeps too much.
    • Your child is vomiting a lot.
    • Your child eats very little.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.